LIVE: Soft Kill @ Thousand Island, London

By Glen Bushell

Towards the back end of last year, Soft Kill unveiled their latest album, ‘Choke’. It caught many off guard, coming in as a late entry to many Albums of the Year lists thanks to the suffocating beauty of the record that the title suggests. Little over five months later, the Portland post-punk band are in London for a special headline show, capping off a tour supporting post-punk trailblazers, Chameleons Vox.

Despite their drummer not being able to make this tour, the band are unfazed, using a sampler to provide the air-tight beats and haunting synths that provide a backbone to Soft Kill’s music. The live recording of the drums pounds through ‘Grandview’, as Tobias Sinclair and Conrad Vollmer trade off reverb-laced guitar lines amid Owen Glendower’s driving bass lines, redolent of The Cure’s ‘Pornography’-era. It’s mesmerising from the start, helped by the searing volume the trio plays at.

Having been used to a support slot for the past week, Soft Kill are still in that mode but a slightly extended set that covers a vast portion of their back catalogue is glorious to finally witness live. Earlier material such as ‘Sea Of Doubt’ from their 2011 album, ‘An Open Door’, sit perfectly next to ‘Wake Up’ and ‘On The Inside’. It shows the progression of the band, seemingly darker with each release and delving deeper into the mind of Sinclair, who doesn’t need to rely on vocal trickery to make his low-end drawl punch you straight in the heart.

Rather than waste time between songs, Soft Kill cruise through their set with each song bleeding effortlessly into the next. From the caustic ‘Selfish Love’ through to the disenchanted ‘Lost’, the band feed off the love in the room from those who have waited a long time for tonight, leaving everything they have on stage.

As they close with the visceral darkwave hypnosis of ‘Whirl’, it marks the end of a stunning performance by a band who believe in the power of their music. It serves as a cathartic release for both its creators and those enamoured by it, who were desperate for more despite the band not having anything else to play for an encore this evening. Their time on stage may have been short, but the impact was everlasting.